Writing With Love

Writing about what you love is such a joyous experience.

Not only that, your passion for your subject comes through in your writing, and makes it sparkle.

Recently, I realised that both my new books due to be released this year involve dogs. And I LOVE dogs.

In Reena’s Rainbow, to be published by EK Books, Reena meets a stray dog and it changes her life. (I love illustrator, Tracie Grimwood’s sensitive and beautiful interpretation of my Dog).

In K9 Heroes, to be published by Scholastic Australia, all four stories are about amazing dogs who have saved people’s lives.

Here are my tips for writing about what you love. I hope you find them helpful.

WRITING ABOUT WHAT YOU LOVE

  1. Remember that your reader might not know as much about your passion as you do … so some explanation might be required.
  2. Story comes first … so don’t let your love for your subject distract you from the art of good story telling.
  3. What you love is part of who you are, it’s part of your natural voice so allow it to filter through organically in your work. Don’t let it become contrived. For example, me bringing dogs into my story happened in my subconscious, and while I love writing about them, that doesn’t mean I should have a dog in every story.
  4. Enjoy the experience. It’s okay to love what you do … even if it’s not paying the bills … yet.
  5. Look for markets that publish pieces about your passion.

What do you love writing about? Do you find recurring themes or symbols in your writing. If so, we’d love you to share your experiences in the comments section of this post.

Happy writing 🙂

Dee

 

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Football and Literacy – A Great Combination for Kids

Katrina Germein and Janine Dawson’s new book Great Goal, Marvellous Mark is a seamless creation that blends football with alphabet

This is a great book for teaching kids their ABC, especially active football loving readers who may be more focussed on sport than literacy.

What I love about Great Goal, Marvellous Mark is that the entire alphabet is encapsulated in this book without the reader realising.

It’s an ABC book with a difference … one that will teach kids the letters of the alphabet before they even realise they’ve learned them, and readers will be completely engrossed in the story.

Janine Dawson’s lively illustrations, full of action and warmth, also carry this tale along.

I love the expressions on the kid’s faces, and the mud and slush of a true football game in winter.

Kids will love the humor and movement of the illustrations and the fast paced text.
Great Goal, Marvellous Mark is a book that sport loving parents can read to their kids, or the kids can enjoy alone.

Text and illustrations work in perfect harmony to ensure that this book will appeal to both readers and sport enthusiasts.

KATRINA’S GREAT WRITING TIPS

We are so lucky that best-selling author, Katrina Germein has agreed to share her fabulous writing tips with us:

  1. Write about something new. 

Things that have been in our lives forever are often the hardest to write about well. That’s because we either take them for granted, or we’re too sentimental; we can’t easily identify the details that make the story interesting or entertaining. When we begin something new as an outsider, we’re observant and curious. That makes for good writing.

I didn’t grow up in a football family and yet one day I found myself the parent of two kids who played Aussie Rules. Junior footy became a big part of my life and it was all new to me. Hours on the sideline trying to make sense of it all resulted in this book.

Love this tip

  1. Be prepared to play with the structure.

Thorough editing is always the key to a good picture book manuscript. Sometimes you can get away with tightening up each paragraph, each sentence, word by word, but other times you need to find a whole new way of organising the story. I played around with junior footy stories for years before I managed to make Great Goal, Marvellous Mark really work. The first two ‘final’ manuscripts are quite different to the published story. I didn’t plan to write an alphabet book, but using an alphabetic structure for the narrative just worked in this case; it provided a wonderful way to showcase the game and celebrate footy lingo.

  1. Take a big deep breath and listen to the experts.

When you’ve rewritten your manuscript fifty million times, and it’s been accepted, and the contact is signed, and the illustrator has begun, it’s easy to feel like the hard work is done. I was lucky enough to have the fabulous Sue Whiting edit my contracted story but despite her expertise and diplomacy I may have had one small tantrum at some point and claimed to be ‘overwhelmed’. Luckily, I got over myself and listened to Sue because her suggestions were small but brilliant and the story is much better as a result.

This is really great advice

  1. Advocate for Diversity

I love the diversity of the engaging characters illustrated in the book. Janine Dawson’s lively illustrations are exactly what I was hoping for. The vibrant art adds layers of action and humour to the story and is inclusive of gender and a broad range of cultural backgrounds. It’s wonderful when author, publisher, designer and illustrator share the same vision. Authors are constantly told to stay out of the illustration process but if something is really important to you, mention it, because you might find that everyone shares the same vision.

I love the diversity in this book too.

  1. Dogs make everything better.

If you can find an authentic way to include a dog in your story then do it. Dogs bring joy (in life and books).

I so agree with this tip 🙂 Thanks for these great writing tips, Katrina.

Just by coincidence, I happen to have a dog book coming out later this year myself … and another book with a dog in it. Dogs Rule!

   

Hope you enjoyed Katrina’s great tips.

Happy writing 🙂

Dee

 

 

Why “How to Bee” is creating such a buzz – PLUS great writing tips

How to Bee, the new book for readers aged 8-12 by Bren MacDibble has been creating quite a buzz in bookstores, libraries and homes … and that’s no surprise.

Dealing with a contemporary concern, the extinction of bees, the main character, Peony has such a unique voice and fierce, determined personality that she quickly draws you into her story.

I’ll be telling you more about How to Bee and my thoughts on it later, but first, Bren MacDibble has some great writing tips based on how she created this wonderful book.

BREN’S TOP WRITING TIPS

1.  The setting for How to Bee was a future world that evolved over time via facts picked up from reading articles and attending cons and listening to people speak on food security. So my tip is pay attention to interesting things, and things that are important. Nothing is more important to us right now than climate change and food security, so why not set a book in a world that shows the effects of our current direction? Kids are not deaf and blind, they worry about things like this too. A book showing possible effects of bee loss can help them think about those fears in a non-threatening way.

2. How to Bee has a very direct plot line. It’s for 8 to 12 year olds and it is tightly focussed on what the main character wants, and she drives the plot like she’s got hold of a bulldozer and can’t reach the brake. The plot pretty much just goes forwards, with a couple of pauses to catch the reader up on how things got this way. So there’s a straight path through the story, keeping the reader following, even though it’s set in a complex world they’ve never seen before.

3. How to Bee is in first person so the voice of a 9 year old girl who’s never been to school a day in her life and only lived in an orchard, can never let up. She’s the narrator. It’s in her head. It’s in her dialogue, and it’s different to the dialogue of the people around her, except the other kids on the orchard. I can’t tell her story in my voice, I’m too old and have a different vocabulary. Her vocabulary is simple and full of slang, and shaped by the children around her. Find your protagonist’s real and honest voice and use it.

4.  Likewise, her point of view can never let up. Peony is determined and strong, but she is naive. There are things about her mother, or people she doesn’t know that she can’t hope to understand, and when she guesses, she’s often wrong, and that’s okay, because it’s honest. Don’t put adult thoughts in your protagonist’s head. Be honest.

5.  Thinking about everyone in a new world, and what they might value, can add surprising details that add colour to world-building. Like that all the orchard children are named after fruit and flowers because they are what’s precious in this new world. Likewise, for the very rich, life had not changed at all. They were able to insulate themselves and afford the rising food prices, whereas middle and low income people mortgaged their homes and quickly join the ranks of homeless poor. Of course neither of these things can be said from the point of view of a child narrator, but they are shown to a point and left to the observant reader to figure out. When Peony meets Esmeralda, one of the first things she says is, “What kind of name is that?” You or I might think Peony, Pomegranate, and Mangojoy are strange names but in this world, the name Peony thinks is strange is the old name of Esmeralda. There should be a logical flow-on to the whole world if values change.

WHY I LOVED “HOW TO BEE”

Peony lives with her sister and grandfather on a fruit farm outside the city. Real bees are extinct, and the quickest, bravest kids climb the fruit trees and pollinate the flowers by hand.

Sometimes bees get too big to be up in the branches, sometimes they fall and break their bones. This week both happened and Foreman said, ‘Tomorrow we’ll find two new bees.’

Peony’s greatest wish is to be one of them … but nothing is ever certain in her world.

In How to Bee, author Bren MacDibble has taken us so deeply into this world of the future, that as readers we feel we are truly part of it.

We desperately want things to work out for Peony, but when her mother takes her off to the city, we know there’s going to be trouble ahead.

In spite of her fierce dislike of living in the ‘urbs’, Peony forms a friendship with rich city girl Esmeralda that transforms both their lives.

Peony’s voice is so strong and unique that you can hear her in your head and picture her as if she were standing in front of you..

“I wrap my body around it like I am the tree and the tree is me, and hang on.”

There’s plenty of action in How to Bee, but it also has vulnerable sensitive moments that allow the reader to reflect on Peony and her situation and empathise with her story.

How to Bee is sad and poignant and joyous and life affirming all at once.

Peony deals with some difficult realities in How to Bee, but many children have hardship in their lives. Some will relate, others will gain greater understanding by sharing Peony’s journey. All will admire her resilience.

How to Bee is a story of love and hope. It’s about the things you can’t choose in your life, and the choices you can make.

It’s impossible not to fall in love with Peony. With her grit and determination, her hard edges, her courage and her capacity to love.

How to Bee is a great read for anyone who likes strong, unique characters, an original plot and a story world that’s so real and fascinating that you want to stay in it.

How to Bee is published by Allen & Unwin.

Michelle Morgan’s Tips on Writing Historical YA

morgan-michelle-head-shotToday, I’m pleased to welcome Michelle Morgan. Michelle is sharing her writing tips on how she wrote her second historical YA novel, Flying through Clouds, released in April.

Michelle’s first novel Racing the Moon, was published by Allen & Unwin in 2014, and released in the UK and US in 2015. Four of her plays have been performed in Short Play festivals in Sydney, Newcastle and Armidale. She has also co-written several songs with her husband, Luke. You can find out more about Michelle and her writing on her website.

ABOUT FLYING THROUGH THE CLOUDS

It’s not easy being a teenage boy growing up in the tough neighbourhood of Glebe in the 1930s. It’s even harder when your dream is to become an aviator, your parents are dead against it, and your girlfriend’s father is the School Principal. But Joe has even bigger challenges he must face and obstacles to overcome if he wants to achieve his dream. He has a plan and won’t let anyone stand in his way.

ftc-front-cover

MICHELLE’S WRITING TIPS

5 tips for writing an historical YA novel – How Michelle wrote Flying through Clouds

  1. Inspiration is the starting point –  I was inspired to write Flying through Clouds by two historical events – the opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge in March 1932, and the landing and take-off of Southern Cross by Sir Charles Kingsford Smith on Seven Mile Beach in January 1933. Before writing a word, I immersed myself in research. I read books about aviators, the Depression and Australia in the 1930s, and watched videos, listened to podcasts, visited museums and searched for old photographs and newspaper articles.
  2. Develop a multi-dimensional main character and a support cast of interesting secondary characters – I often use dialogue to reveal character. My enthusiasm for dialogue springs from my love of theatre and playwriting. In Flying through CloudsI explore Joe’s journey through adolescence and his relationships with his family and friends. To do this, I had to develop secondary characters and themes that would resonate with readers today.
  3. Build tension and create conflict – I put obstacles in Joe’s way and explore his reactions. But Joe also has agency and his plan to become an aviator isn’t as easy as he first thought. He has to make choices, sometimes bad choices, which inevitably lead to conflict with other characters. And there’s no story without conflict. When writing for young adults, it’s important to have a strong narrative.
  4. Develop a distinctive voice –  I chose to write Flying through Clouds in the first person from Joe’s point of view. I wanted readers to be able to experience the world of the 1930s through Joe’s eyes, to be accomplices in all his well-intentioned but poor choices. But the first person also has its limitations because the narrator can’t possibly know everything that’s going on around them or inside the heads of other characters. It was challenging to develop the voice, behaviour and personality of a teenage boy growing up in the 1930s. I read widely but also observed significant males in my life, and dug deep to find the rebellious teenager within. Apart from developing Joe’s voice, I had to develop personalities and behaviours for all my characters.
  5. Thorough editing is critical – In the two years it took to edit Flying through Clouds, I evaluated and interrogated every scene. What impact it has? How credible is it? Will it drive the story forward and develop the characters? Each turning point in the novel had to come at just the right time and create tension, as well as propel the story towards the climax. Critical feedback from professional editors is crucial to developing a manuscript towards publication, and I was fortunate to work with two talented editors. A structural edit led to a much tighter plot and a reduced word count. The copy edit a year later picked up problems with grammar, style, voice, punctuation and minor inconsistencies in the text. The copy edit also inspired me to further develop the voice and characterisations.

Michelle hopes that Flying through Clouds engages readers with its compelling blend of humour, drama and historical detail.

Flying through Clouds is available now at bookshops, educational and library suppliers, and can be ordered on my website: www.michellejmorgan.com.au

 

AUTHOR: Michelle Morgan
TITLE: Flying through Clouds
ISBN: 978-0-9953865-0-1
CATEGORY: Young Adult
AGES: 12+
RRP: $18.99 Pbk
PUBLISHED: 2 April 2017

Teachers notes for Flying through Clouds are available here

 

The Final Stop

I’m very happy to be back home with my family and friends, but I have to confess that I miss Paris already. 
The original plan was to head straight back to Australia, but seeing as I was flying Qatar Airways, it seemed too good an opportunity not to stay a night in Doha, and have a look around.

Doha offered an opportunity to enjoy a completely different cultural experience in a Muslim country with some similarities in lifestyle to what my characters would have experienced at the Grand Mosque of Paris.  

In contrast to the bustle and noise of Paris, Doha was a calm and disciplined place … and very hot. 

Instead of the blue skies of a European spring, there was heat haze and afternoon siestas. Not for me though. I only had a day in Doha so I had to make the most of it. I intended to visit the traditional Arab market at Souq Waquif, but it was closed between 12.00 noon and 4.00pm which made sense because it was the hottest part of the day. 

So instead, I spent the afternoon in the Museum of Islamic Art, a truly beautiful and fascinating place. 

The sculptures, paintings and artifacts dated back many hundreds of years. It was amazing to see how intricate and perfect they were in spite of the primitive tools the artisans would have had at their disposal.

It made me realise how lucky I am to be a writer … how simple it is to just pick up a pen and write … whenever and wherever you are. 

The people of Qatar were warm and friendly, and wandering, through the market at Souq Waquif (after 4.00pm) made me feel like I was going back in time. 

It was a symbolic end to this writing journey, a slight detour that took me into an unfamiliar world that was definitely worth visiting, and the experience will add colour and depth to my story.

Thank you for sharing this amazing adventure with me, and for your encouragement and support along the way.

I am so lucky to have been given this opportunity and I know that my book, Beyond Belief will be all the better for it.

Happy writing 🙂

Dee

A Different Perspective

Sometimes, instead of looking at things in the cold light of day, it can be good to look at them in the darkness of night. 

My characters in my book will be travelling up the Seine in the thick of night, in freezing cold waters with soldiers looking for them.

My characters will be in waters like these

I know being on a cruise boat isn’t quite the same thing, but I decided to take a cruise to experience the sights sounds and smells of the river at night.

I sat up front in the open so I could breathe in the atmosphere.

The humming of the boat’s motor, the smell of the water, the swish of waves against the hull, the shouts of voices from the river bank.

A place takes on a whole different personna at night.

Seasons and time of day really make a difference to pace and mood of a story so I’d certainly recommend standing (or sitting) in your story world at different times to experience how the setting changes.

Hope you enjoy my Paris at night pics. 

Happy writing 🙂

Dee

This project is supported by the Victorian Government through Creative Victoria 

A Writer Must Always Be Open to Possibilities

People are inherently good and kind, and if you are interested and open to knowledge and the experiences they are willing to share, you can learn so much about them, about humanity and about the world.

So many times on this trip, people have reached out to help me with my research for Beyond Belief. The people of Paris wherever we have been have been truly welcoming and wonderful.

Today, we were walking through the Marais district when a very kind Jewish man stopped us, and asked if I was Jewish.

I explained that my Jewish grandparents fled Austria in WW2 with my father (who was a teenager) and came to Australia where I was born. But as I told him, I was not raised as a Jew although I have cousins who were.

He had been in Paris for five years and was very happy to talk to me about his world.

I explained that I had been having trouble finding my way into a synagogue, but I was very interested to see inside one, and learn about it. Although I had been in a newer, much grander synagogue with my lovely guide Laetitia, it was only a very short visit and I wasn’t able to take photos or ask questions.

“Come, I will show you my synagogue,” he said proudly. 

He led us into ‘the 17’, a building up several flights of narrow stairs and the oldest synagogue in Paris.

Located at number 17 Rue de Rossiers (Rosebushes Street), the synagogue dates back to the 17th century when Jews were not allowed, if they could ever afford it, to build a monumental place of worship. 

Even during the black period of WW2 this synagogue remained open, and those of the congregation who survived the death camps, sought comfort there upon their return. 

It was such an honour to be invited inside this historic place … and to witness this man’s love for his people, his God and for humanity.

Another wonderful experience that I know will add richness to my story.

I’m going to miss Paris and its people and all the wonderful culture and experiences it has to offer.

But I will definitely be back … and I already have ideas for a new story … set in Paris 🙂

Happy writing 🙂

Dee

This project is supported by the Victorian Government through Creative Victoria